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Book Review

Teaching the Elephant to Dance
The Manager’s Guide to Empowering Change

SUBMITTED TO: SUBMITTED BY:
Amit Baweja (305)
Dr. Rajan Saxena Shristi Dalmia (307)
Faculty-in-Charge, Div. D Kopal Doshi (313)
Customer Acquisition & Retention Anurag Kalita (331)
Ashit Shetty (355)
Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY...............................................................................................................3

INTRODUCTION...........................................................................................................................4

DESCRIPTION..............................................................................................................................4
Teaching the Elephant to Dance................................................................................................................................................4
Getting Ready for the Change...................................................................................................................................................5
Anticipate the Obstacles............................................................................................................................................................6
Create Tomorrow.......................................................................................................................................................................8
Focus Resources........................................................................................................................................................................8
Vision Makes the Differences ...................................................................................................................................................9
Actions Set the Pace..................................................................................................................................................................9
Expect it or Forget it..................................................................................................................................................................9
People Are the Key..................................................................................................................................................................10
Culture Is It..............................................................................................................................................................................10
Change Happens – The Elephant Learns.................................................................................................................................10

CONCLUSION.............................................................................................................................11
Executive Summary
In the first chapter the author briefly reiterates the now familiar theme that in market after market U.S.
corporations are being outsold and out performed by the competition. Because of this, he argues that it is
urgent to bring about change in these big organizations so as to prevent them from falling behind foreign
competitors. His point made, the author immediately starts to describe his program for getting
organizations to change and take advantage of opportunities.
The first five chapters set the stage for change with a discussion of basic topics which would set the
reader through a gradual process of getting ready, anticipating obstacles, and focusing resources. Perhaps
the most innovative concept arising out of the book is in Chapter 6, "Vision Makes the Difference." The
author subscribes to the fact that people work best when they work for a vision. And a vision not a
synonym for the mission statement:

“Vision is the difference between short-term “hits," like asset sales and cutting R&D budgets, and long-
term change. Vision translates paper strategies into a way of life. Vision empowers people to change.”

Vision is something which will help people to identify with the organization at all levels. Lower-level
employees often do not know the firm's mission statement from its strategy, but they know the reputation
it maintains in the market and how others perceive it. Employees invariably know when they work for a
good organization, or an organization that is considered a second- or even third-rate one. Employees
often remember the times when they are proud of their efforts and when they felt that what they were
doing was something that counted. Hence they didn't worry about how long it took to get the job done
right. People work like that when they have a vision.

Some of the organizations have indeed been successful in making visions practically synonymous with
their names. The Marine Corps did that to perfection: once a Marine, always a Marine. So too has IBM,
with its incredible worldwide customer support network. However too many American corporations
today have lost their vision that could connect every stakeholder and with that loss, they have lost their
drive to succeed.

Visions come from people; a point Author stresses in Chapter 9, “People Are the Key.” Nothing will
happen to change any organization until the people in it decide they want to change. Results come when
people develop a shared vision of how they want their organization to be perceived and are willing to
work every day to maintain that vision. Sam Walton had a vision for Wal-mart. So did Ray Kroc for
McDonald's. What is remarkable is that so many employees at all level in both these organizations still
share the founder's original vision.
Introduction
The book “Teaching the Elephant to Dance” has been authored by J.A. Belasco, Ph. D; and . is published
by Crown Publishers, New York and printed by Plume, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. in July
1991. Dr. James Belasco has been a dynamic and pragmatic visionary and in this book he shares his ideas
for organizational redirection and reengineering for the business leaders across the globe to implement.

This book is a practical guide for managers and leaders of today’s organizations through the stages by
which they can bring change to their organizations. It prepares a road map of how to go through the
challenge of implementing change in an organization.

Description
The author describes the situation in the United States of America and the United Kingdom where major
corporations are facing the heat from the major organizations from across the globe. He cites the
example of General Motors which is being out sold by Japanese and European car manufacturers. Also
he intones that large American and British organizations are still riding the wave of past success and
hence they have become more vulnerable to being outsmarted by their competitors.

The author sets the mood for the book by creating a very interesting analogy between pachyderms and
organizations. He explains the process of how young elephants are shackled by using heavy chains which
are affixed to the ground by spike, so as to restrict movement while training. The elephant remembers the
early training even after it had matured and doesn’t try to break away even though heavy chains are
replaced by only a small metal bracelet around its feet. Organizations, too, get set in their ways as they
get older, held back by the self-imposed bonds that they have the power to break out of but don't, due to
the reason that they are happy to not look beyond.

The chronological order of chapters within the book makes the book a valuable guidebook for managers.
The learning available from each of the chapters is very much based on the real world cases. These
chapters make a good connection towards the whole objective of making organizations nimble and
responsive towards the need for change.

Each of the chapters touches upon some key aspects which are elaborated upon herewith:.

Teaching the Elephant to Dance

The first chapter sets the tone for the entire book and he fleetingly touches the different aspects of how
organizations can observe change. While describing the reluctance to change, the author cites the
example of Xerox which was still riding on its commercial success up to 1980s; they failed to realize the
competition from Japanese companies consideringthemselves to be invincible. Xerox, until they lost
significant market, didn’t realize a key factor that the Japanese had 50% cost advantage compared toit.
CEO David Kearns saw the need for change. Similar was the inertial situation for the UK textile
manufacturer Coulthards. Managers were caught in the vicious cycle of poor results followed by
conservative management which led to even poorer results.

“It was a death dance for the elephant”. It had to break out of the mould.

“Needing change doesn’t make it happen”.
Empowerment is the key to create change. General Motors CEO, Jack Welch has been citied as an
example how empowerment encouraged by management can bring about constructive change. Hence it
is Leaders who can create the organization’s preparedness for a new tomorrow.

“Markets continually change, Customers continually change. Technology continually changes.
Competitors continually change. Each change triggers the need to create a new tomorrow”.

Active leaders keep this change in mind and move quickly to develop new strategic approach. For this
change to happen, the leader needs to mobilize support. A vision creates that energy and focus for new
tomorrow.

“This vision is the picture that drives all action. It includes both deeply felt values and a picture of the
organization’s strategic focus.”

The change happens through collective participation from empowered people who believe in the same
vision.

“Cross-disciplinary-, multifunctional-, multi-organizational- level teams empower people to understand
and support the vision”.

Royal Insurance (U.K.) discovered that amongst its winners and losers in the product line, the presumed
winners were actually the losers and presumed also-rans the big winners. This observation made
Managing Director Peter Duerden to appoint 16 managers who along with Boston Consulting Group
would be planning and implementing strategic decision. The participatory model didn’t stop at that, the
entire workforce was involved in the change process and got almost 200 personal responses with
suggestions.

Getting Ready for the Change

The process of change is often fun but seldom successful. More often the change process fails because
people don’t subscribe to the process of change. People often feel struk to the old habit and old behavior
which is past its usefulness. Jack Welch had empowered people in General Electric to execute pirouette-
type changes.

“Jack Welch moves General Electric into new and different areas -gobbling up and then straightening
out such huge firms as RCA - with a nimbleness that leaves corporation presidents trembling and
wondering whether Jack will land next in their boardroom.”

The change process is built upon a sense of urgency. People usually don’t change without pain and
anxiety. Bad situations motivate people for change. Change is often uncomfortable. It doesn’t occur until
after the pain of realizing that current behavior needs to go. Key is to create the urgency for change first
by creating the need to change. Present behavior should be discouraged by taking away the rewards
associated to it and empowering people to embrace change.

The first step towards change is to create a clear tomorrow.

“People need a clear, simple-to-understand ‘promised land’ to which they can travel. People need to see
the end to the fire and the reconstruction of a better tent.”
The organization going through change should have a clear identification of where it is heading to and
almost all need to know what it will be like. Unless this is clear the change process will never be a
collective process and would get derailed in the first stage.

“Present a clear picture. Empower employees by showing them precisely what you want them to do.”

It is important to develop a migration path. Set the behavior so that other can follow. Employees often set
to practice the behavior they see in their managers. Managers should model new strategies and set it to
practice. More often than now the employees also follow suit. This is because employees respect and
admire their managers.

“John Wolfsheimer is executive vice president of a large aerospace company. He’s one of the leading
change agents commissioned by the CEO to radically transform the way his company does business.
One of John’s major activities was in trouble. Schedule Shortfalls and cost overruns threatened to
overwhelm the positive cash flows. In olden days executives would sit in their office studying reams of
paper and then issue orders to correct the problem/ John knew that traditional behavior needed to be
changed.”

The first thing that John did was to leave his business suit at home and wear the workers’ clothes i.e.
jeans and sneakers. He went out to the shop floor to know the problem first hand. And to add to it all, he
assigned himself as assistant foreman to one of the first line supervisors for a week. By this he got to
know the crux of the problem. And the change set in.

“From that day forward standard became ‘Get out of your office and find out firsthand what’s going
on’.”

Another key aspect is to reinforce the new behavior. People who embrace the new behavior need to be
encouraged and empowered to continue doing things that way.

“Change is a process and not a destination. It never ends. Regardless of how successful you are this
year, there is always next year.”

Anticipate the Obstacles

Author identifies five main obstacles to empowering change. He vouches for the fact that empowering
change is a difficult process.

“Here are five potential problems that will pose significant mental anguish; it always takes longer,
exaggerated expectations, carping critics, procrastination, and imperfections”

It always takes longer…

It is reasoned that people learn slowly but forget easily. In reality, it takes much longer for people to
change than expected. People often have a very short memory when it comes to challenging the old
habits. If it becomes visible to them that the vision of empowering the employees has wavered even
slightly, they will be fast to construe it as the beginning of the end. Managers need to stick with this for
the long term, even though they would need to make it evident to the employees that it has benefits in
the short term as well. They would need to see a continuous stream of short term progress being
produced by use of their manager’s vision.
Exaggerated expectations, everyone wants everything now…

“Deliver some progress and people want lot of progress - immediately”

The author states that attaining a guru-like status has its own benefits. It also is gratifying to see others
feel obliged to yourself. However this superhuman status comes with a lotof dangers. When things work
out well and fast, often people start expecting managers to meet impossibly high standards.
Unfortunately nobody is perfect and mistakes will happen. And when the inevitable fumble occurs,
people find a reason to hesitate about using the manager’s vision. Manager’s vision might not instantly
cure all organization’s problems. In fact the opposite may occur. Problems may come to for those have
bubbled below the surface for years. In times as those it is persistence that counts. It is key not to let the
expectation of self as well as the people on the ability to deliver.

“Visions are not a magic elixir”

Carping skeptics…

Skeptics are something which can be found in every professional organization. They are the people who
will always try to come up with a counter argument which will conflict with the objective or at least
create confusion. Unfortunately, they are something which cannot be ignored, worse still they may be
correct. They may also be pointing out certain obstacles which have been overlooked until then.

“Critics don’t give up easily. As was the case with Steven, they can drive you, like a gale wind, off your
course and shipwreck you plans.”

The rule to follow in these situations is not to give up and steel the self to deal with carping critics.
Ignoring those critics may work mostly in the short run but it is advisable to identify the critics.
Capitalize on the enthusiasm of other employees and report the initial short term progress. This would
either silence those critics or would convert them to support the vision.

Procrastination…

It often takes time to empower a new vision. Most employees always have their plates full and doing
things as per new vision is doing just another thing in the task list. Visions often come with
intangibilities of running a company as improving employee motivation and creating customer
satisfaction. As these intangibilities are too uncomfortable and difficult areas to handle, the issues of
empowering the vision takes a back seat.

“Vision supporting activities are all too easily postponed. They are difficult to do and often are viewed
as not part of the individual’s ‘real job’.”

The solution to this problem is to break the vision supporting actions into simple doable steps. The idea
is to keep up the steady drumbeat which would be pushing for short term action. Using the reporting
system of the organization, vision’s successes can be highlighted to the entire organization. Maintaining
a steady flow of information will ensure that the steps towards reaching the vision remains anything but
wavered.

Imperfection…
Vision doesn’t guarantee perfection and when results achieve less than perfection, it is not a matter to get
disappointed about. Charles Lazarus, chairman and CEO of the very successful toy store chain Toys “R”
Us. He aimed to make his toy chain largest in the world. During the last twenty two years Lazarus made
a lot of mistakes in buying and selling , however he continuously makes corrections mid way so that he
is still making progress towards that aim. It is the attitude that needs to be conditioned, people would
need to take failure in their slide and create a learning out of it.

Create Tomorrow

As organization grow old it becomes imperative that it starts seeing what others are doing. It is very easy
to start believing in their own press clippings. They become the audience of their own performance and
hence cease to look beyond. This belief in invincibility makes the organizations distant from their
customers and soon become vulnerable to being swept away. Many a times a competitor suddenly comes
up with a product which will diminish the market share in a diminishing. Canon had a significant market
share in the single lens reflex market until Maxxum came into the picture. Maxxum, with its automatic-
focus system for 35-mm SLR, swept the market. The effect on the market share of Cannon is anybody’s
guess.

Ina situation as this the strategy should be to the basics which organization often overlook and try to
replicate a solution which either has been put in or try to go overboard and try to bring a fruit from the
distant future. The three general principles that need to be followed are: Lead from the strength, follow
customers, channels, or production processes and finally be a little bit but not too far ahead.

Another is to create the niche.

“’Hit ‘em where they ain’t,’ was Wee Willie Keeler’s motto. He did that through a very successful
basketball career. The motto of a successful niche player might be, ‘Hit ’em where the big boys aren’t,
and the big money is”

Mostly in the commodity business, the organizations who have been able to become niche players have
always enjoyed the growth of business. Vista Chemicals is a fine example where CEO John Burns had
turned around the Conoco Oils losing chemical divisions, rechristened as Vista Chemicals, using the
same compound in an altogether different usage as ingredient of liquid cleaners. Other factors which can
help to score ahead of competition is by being in touch with customers, being nimble towards the change
that is required and having a appetite for cost efficiency.

Focus Resources

Invest the best people in the prospects of tomorrow. The need is to free them up from other pressing
responsibilities and focus them on creating new tomorrow. By identifying the key leverage positions the
best talents can be found to fit them. The requirements need to be defined to identify the resources to
fulfill them. The need is to identify what actually is required rather than who actually is required. If what
is fixed then it is infinitely easy to identify who needs to do that.

Searching and selecting the best candidate is often a time consuming process. The best candidates are
often that are found inside the organization. The best way to find that out is by choosing the information
channel of lieutenants and they using their subordinates and thereafter. Internal recommendations reduce
selection costs and turnover.
Once the candidates are ready to go into the voyage the idea is to assist with right resources. As the
company needs to generate resources towards new course it still needs to continue its old processes. The
important step here is to reduce non essential expenditures and lower the cost of essential activities.
Constant pursuit for quality improvements must be done. Also it is advised that subcontractors and
vendor partners should be included in quality improvement and development activities. Finally it is time
refocus activities on the new tomorrow. This can be done in two steps by firstly making the strategic
focus clear with well informed people and mobilize support for the new tomorrow as already pointed out.

Vision Makes the Differences

“Vision is the difference between short-term “hits," like asset sales and cutting R&D budgets, and long-
term change. Vision translates paper strategies into a way of life. Vision empowers people to change.”

Vision must exist at all level of the organization. Vision is the difference between long term success of
any organization and a certain second-rate position. The vision need not spell out explicitly the roles of
each and everyone in the organization, but just the general picture of where the organization will be
going and what measures would be done to get there. Philip Caldwell, CEO of Ford Motor Corporation
came up with the vision statement that “Quality Is Job 1”. The crux of the success of a vision like this is
that before the manager goes about empowering people and mobilizing them to strive for this strategy, it
needs to be an inspiration yet easy to understand message which focuses each and every one on to the
vision.

Actions Set the Pace

A vision bears fruit only when it is being executed. It is necessary that managers themselves act and get
other to act as well. The vision has to be used in doing things differently. The faith in the vision only
strengthens when personally working towards it is demonstrated to others. Other important step is to live
the vision consistently. The lack of consistency will only lead to diminish of confidence of the
employees.

Constant reporting of the progress needs to be made. Managers need to do that at their end as well as
need to encourage others to report the progress made by them. This will ensure that people get reminded
the vision is working. This can be done in various ways like making chart of few key behaviors and
posting these charts in work areas, lobbies etc. Also reporting can be reviewed in staff meetings.

Another way of implementing the steps towards vision is by using the management channel to get the
practice of acting on the vision percolated into the organization. Using personal direct reports to take to it
seriously will ensure that the cascading effects gets through and subsequent levels are equally focused on
to it.

Expect it or Forget it

Expectations are very crucial towards the success of any change process and they have to make it
explicit. Expectations which are not well communicated are almost impossible to be met. These
expectations can be achieved by empowered employees and should be reinforced when met. One of the
strong personal empowerment messages can be the performance management system.

Setting of specific and numeric expectations often result in practicable situations. People are motivated
to achieve things when they can realize them in day to day life. The performance needs to be related to
the strategic advantage that the vision is built around. Employees need to be judged on the basis of this
strategic advantage.

The measurement of intangible behavior is also important. Sometimes what is being achieved by a task is
much more than the quantifiable limits and key here is to actually capture the intangibilities. What gets
measured gets empowered and produced. And when rewarded gets produced again. Rewards are also
needed to be built to value the progress towards the vision and should be in right measure to keep the
employees motivated.

People Are the Key

Organizations are empty houses without people. Right kinds of people are required to get the
organization moving in the right direction. While an organization is going through a change, the
perception created by people is very important. People observe what kind of people are being hired,
oriented, trained and paid. These personnel actions send a very strong message about the seriousness
with which the vision is being implemented.

Getting the right people who have the skills to and want to use the vision is much easier than developing
those skills or willingness. The easiest way to empower people is to select newcomers who want to and
can contribute. The people who need to work on the vision need to be oriented towards it. Relevant
training needs to be provided so that they are able to work upon the vision with confidence. Career
development also needs to be taken care of and employees should be encouraged to discuss about their
career planning and preferences. Finally compensation and performance appraisal keep the link alive
between what is being done and what is required. The mechanism of reward and reinforcement ensures
that it is being redone with the same right set of people.

Culture Is It

Empowerment is in the culture. Gradually it builds into the culture of an organization. People are
sensitive to the messages. Empowering messages comes from the culture system. The law of the culture
system outweighs any other law. Every organization has a culture. Every department has a culture
invariably. Best way to condition the culture is by retiring the old one. As the vision is new, the culture
that will support he vision has to be new as well. While retiring the old culture some steps that need to be
taken care of are:

1. Remember the glory of the golden past.
2. Promise for a better future.
3. Pose moderate risks.
4. Remind all employees of common values.
5. Celebrate the new way once the passage is complete.

Change Happens – The Elephant Learns

“This is hard work. Change isn’t easy.”

Once the change has been implemented upon the key is to continue. The change is a process and not a
destination. Most employees try to see the process as a product. It is a make shift arrangement wherein
the short term relevance tries outweigh the final goal.
Emphasis should be laid on process focus and process activities should be measured. The main agent of
change is the self. When the change is initiated with the managers than the change is everywhere.
Management needs to move from a hierarchical setup to an empowering setup which encourages
creativity and reliability.

People should be let to ask questions as questioning reinforces their conviction in the vision and
empowers them. Finally the focus on the vision is the key which needs to be fuelled by the energy
towards its implementation.

Conclusion
Teaching the Elephant to Dance is about the difficult problem of getting organizations to change before
they are forced to do so by a crisis threatening their survival. Keeping academic references to a
minimum, the author has written an enthusiastic book for practitioners - those who will actually be
responsible for bringing about the change in their respective organizations. Much of his approach and
many of his examples are based on his own consulting and teaching experience, lending an air of
authenticity to the book.

However, one peril in using as many examples as the author does is that some of them don't stand the test
of time. In Chapter 1, Sears is quoted as an organization which has been able to hold up to competition
by its appetite for change. However this didn’t let Sears be the market leader for ever; soon after other
organizations like Wal-mart came to dominate the market. The process of change is not enough; the
change has to be with respect to what is required by the customer and how the competition is preparing
to provide that. In Chapter 5, Campbell's Soup CEO Gordon McGovern is held up as an example of a
CEO whose vision reinvigorated a sleepy company. Reorganized into 50 quasi-independent business
units, Campbell's did develop hundreds of new products during the 1980s. But few of them were big
successes and profits failed to meet targets. Under increasing pressure from the board for results,
McGovern resigned in November 1989. Thus, having a vision is not enough. The vision must be suited
to the organization, not imposed on it.

Author has provided many examples of companies that have reoriented their directions. For instance, we
learn the danger of a company's resting on its laurels in the case of IBM, which in the mid-'80s made
more money than any other organization but got in trouble because it was averse to change. Thankfully,
its chief executive at that time, John Akers, moved quickly to design a new strategy and saved the day.

Many other companies are mentioned, including Domino's Pizza, which is cited for its initiative of
paying bonuses to all employees based on customer service performance; Mrs. Field's Cookies, whose
employees embody the owner's philosophy by serving up tasty cookies with a smile; and Salomon
Brothers, whose chairman, John Gutfreund, used a people-oriented strategy to survive a crisis.